Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN Tokyo Bureau Chief
I was interviewed at CNN today by CNN in Atlanta in a "live to tape" format. The segment is about generational changes in Japan and the youth culture. I was part of the "studio discussion" after they watch the video. I think I'll be on for about 10 minutes. We talked about a variety of things including the export of Japanese culture to the rest of the world. The interviewer asked whether I thought Japanese music would be the next big thing after anime. I said that I thought Japanese music is a good export. I said I thought mobile device culture where the producers are the consumers was more interesting and that this culture would be the bigger export. It was "live" so the question caught me off guard and I didn't express myself well. I didn't get a chance to say "mobblog" on CNN. ;-p

The show should be aired on CNN International next week or so depending on whether there is other "breaking news". I will be a talking head in my own little box. I've been on CNN before, but this is my first "Max Headroom" appearance.

Rebecca, the Tokyo Bureau Chief is a fellow GLT and a friend. I set her up with an IRC client and got her logged into #joiito. She has an exciting and sometimes dangerous job. It definitely looks like a lot of fun. She had a gas mask and a helmut in her office...


Congrats, Joi. It's interesting that they're looking at cultural exports, rather than expecting a tech revival. Consumer products, supercomputing, do these things matter, or did they just use you as the cultural expert?

I disagree on the mobile culture... I think there are some form factor issues, not to mention language that still get in the way. We're not there, yet.


yup, this is very cool, Joi.

My alternative music roots are showing when I think: why not export mobile culture embedded with intensely good Japanese Why can't ringtones be hip, high quality, and help spread the Japanese underground music/culture scene? I heard a band yesterday that was a remarkable amalgam of old J-folk cadences in a pure rock base..powerful stuff if it was coming from a mobile phone!

Sigh...wish we'd had mobile culture capabilities when we were breaking Pizzicato Five overseas...

Because the phones aren't up to it. Because they don't have people designing phones that are on the bleeding edge, rather than the cutting edge.

We do have bleeding edge phones. ;-)

We have 3D phones, phones with OCR cameras, phones with finger print readers, phones with location info, phones that can trade coupons peer-to-peer, phones that run old nintendo games, etc. Also, there are some dual mode phone trials to will allow wifi and carrier network stuff to happen together. Also, there are a lot of funky services on the web that can be accessed by the phones. Payment systems for services. But the most important thing is how the kids are using the phones and changing their lifestyles, fashion, and the way the communicate and have fun. I don't know how you make money exporting it exactly, but it is a cultural export.

eek -Joi; can you give us some pointers to these bleeding edge phones? I can see ways to make money importing some of those usage patterns already.

Awww, come on Joi, it was a joke. Yes, there are bleeding edge phones. No, they don't have penetration. Because the premium isn't worth it yet.

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and I'll give you something to cry about!"

babee we missed it Jason and I want to see it do you have it saved?

We were talking and we said YOU should be HERE with US!!!!


export Japanese music? No one goes broke by underestimating human stupidity, but I'd still bet 100,000 Yen that what makes money here (Morning Musume, Ayumi Hamasaki, Puffy, etc) would not sell anywhere else. If there is some good music happening here, I just have not heard it yet.

Chris, having been in the world for 12 years, for the big-selling "artists", I totally agree with you (except for Hajime Chitose, who I think has the uniqueness and talent to do it, but probably won't be able to because of the demands of the Japanese market).

But when I look back at our videos of Pizzicato Five on the '97 world tour (which only covered the US, Europe and Japan) and see the sold-out Irving Plaza crowd screaming with joy as Maki (in a drop-dead pink sequenced lion tamer's outfit holding a glittering baton) was carried on stage by a giant Japanese-Russian dread named Sasha, and they broke into "Twiggy Twiggy" as MTV, CNN, the New York Times and Spin's cameras snapped away, I wonder how much more we could have done with a line of P5 ring tones (you can't tell me Maki's voice saying "good morning" wouldn't have spread like wildfire): not just how many records we could have sold, but how many people would have gotten a lot of joy from hearing those tones, connecting with each other...When FEED was asked by Billy Corgan to open for the Pumpkins' last live at Budokan, and Lenny Kaye from PSG produced the band's amazing debut album, some strategically chosen ringtones would have been a big help in spreading the word to their growing fan base.

With a lot of sifting, there is much more great music percolating underground here than many people (Japanese included) realize. When I was still doing that work, my first rule of thumb was to ignore whatever sells big here, as it's almost a foregone conclusion that if the mass audience here likes it, no one outside of Japan will. The excellent stuff takes time to find, but it's there.

just my ¥5


P5 was fun, but as far as I can tell they were mostly a cult thing in the US and had even less of a following here in Tokyo. I enjoyed "Twiggy Twiggy" just as much as the next New Yorker at the time, but have not heard anything from them since. The whole Shibuya Kei thing (even including Korean Japanese Towa Tei) pretty well never moved on past the pseudo bossa nova sound.

Since moving to Tokyo in 97 I've made some effort to try and find "local" music of any type that I enjoyed but have not come up with anything besides "Dry & Heavy" (dub reggae) and I dont think there is much demand for that sort of music here or elsewhere.

I'll drop by a.m.j to see what is said there, maybe I'm missing something in this creative desert.

Um, sorry to be rude, but how old are all of you? In the over-30 demographic, no doubt. How well do you know J-pop? If you've been paying ANY attention (and not just speaking from your old-fashioned bias *_*), you'd know that artists like Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru, as well as L'Arc en Ciel have a solid following in the US. And with good reason: although you might find it shocking, a lot of people (myself included) find American music strikingly repetitive and unoriginal. Here's my advice: go to YouTube, go look up Ayumi Hamasaki's "JEWEL" or Gackt's "Redemption" and READ the comments on the page. You'll note that they're in English and Spanish (yes, the dreaded immigrants), coming from young J-Pop fans from around the world. Geez, get over your superiority complex already...not everyone thinks Guns and Roses or Bon Jovi is the pinnacle of good music.

No kidding. Pizzacato five is so yesterday, guys. Go Ayu!